Tuesday, February 16, 2010

SOFTWARE: Where IS That Bloat Coming From?

I'm paranoid. Proud to admit it. And one of the things bothering me lately was why my nightly backups of my C: Drive were so big. As it turns out, the guilty culprit was ZoneAlarm. It had created a debugging log that was eight GIGS in size. Not megabytes, GIGABYTES!

The fact of the matter is that I try to keep C: clean and tight. Nothing gets installed by choice on C:\. That doesn't mean that it doesn't grow like a weed, even running Crap Cleaner once a week. Every set of Microsoft Updates requires creating rollback points (which you MIGHT have had to use this past Tuesday when the Clumsy Empire managed to foul up many XP installations). There are temp files aplenty that don't seem all that temporary and print files and registry changes and ... well, it's all a Sisyphean task when you really think about it. But try I must.

Once I identified the culprit, while testing out Space Sniffer (freeware, here), I had to head back to the 'net to find out what the tvdebug.log file was. And I found information here, courtesy of WhitPhil of Whitby ON (good Canadian city). You can check it out, but here is the gist of the solution:
  1. While holding down the Control and Shift keys together, right click on the ZA icon in your system tray.
  2. Choose Set Debug Level.
  3. Select OFF in the Debug Categories section and press OK.
  4. Now right click on the Zone Alarm icon and choose to shut it down.
  5. Now, use your File Explorer to go to C:\Windows\Internet Logs and locate the TVdebug.log on your computer.
  6. For a second, be amazed at how big the file is. Now, amazement over, delete it!
  7. Run Notepad.exe (you can use the Start|Run menu selection to type in notepad and hit enter)
  8. Write a few lines describing what this is and save the file to C:\Windows\Internet Logs as TVdebug.log
  9. Make a copy of the file by right clicking on it and selecting copy.
  10. Paste that copy into the folder by right clicking and choosing paste. (Paranoid, remember?)
  11. Select both files using whatever method you prefer.
  12. Right click and choose Properties.
  13. Click ON the box that says Read-Only and press OK.
  14. Now, go back to your start menu and restart ZoneAlarm. (actually, it's actually best you start the computer at this point, but it MIGHT work just restarting ZoneAlarm).
  15. And finally, because you are supposed to be as paranoid as I am, follow steps 1 and 2 to see if the debug level is, indeed, set to off. Click Cancel to get out of that window, happy in the knowledge you have saved your C:\ drive from bloat beyond belief.
These instructions vary a little from the original in the order you do them. I think it's a slight improvement. But I certainly did NOT know about the trick to show the debug menu in ZoneAlarm, so I'm very appreciative of Phil from Whitby. I also urge you to RESET things back to the way they were, if you DO start experiencing problems with ZoneAlarm. Remember, it IS there for a reason. That means taking the read-only bit off your ersatz TVdebug.log and deleting it. Then reversing the logging feature of ZoneAlarm. And then letting you and ZoneAlarm's support people use the resulting log to figure out what's gone wrong.

Then, when things have been righted, you know what to do. The only difference is that after deleting the ZoneAlarm-created TVdebug.log monster, you can just copy over the ersatz copy you made, renaming it in the process. No more notepad.

See there IS a method to my madness!

[PS] Oh, and the savings in my backups for having gotten rid of the file? Just 110 megs. Apparently the TVdebug.log file compresses down a lot. A LOT of lot! Not much in the scheme of things, but one that lets me put my C:\ backup on two DVDs, not two and a bit (read as THREE) DVDs.